Photo: Katherine Etchison
Scientific Name: Chiroptera
Abundance: Locally abundant
Species Profile (PDF)
Coexisting with Bats (PDF)
Managing Conflicts with Bats (PDF)
Virginia Big-Eared Bat Profile (PDF)
Little brown bats (Photo by Katherine Caldwell)
Eastern small-footed bat (Photo by Katherine Caldwell)
Hibernating tri-colored bat with visible signs of White-nose Syndrome (Photo: Katherine Caldwell)
Bats represent one-quarter of all mammal species worldwide. Of the 17 species that occur in North Carolina, three are federally endangered and one is federally threatened. Bats are relatively long-lived, some surviving up to 20 or even 30 years in the wild. They are primarily nocturnal, though they also forage in the early evening and early morning hours. Although bats have good eyesight, most bat species primarily use echolocation to navigate and locate prey. Their maneuverability is phenomenal; bats can avoid objects as small as a string in total darkness.
Bats in North Carolina mate in the spring or fall and usually produce one pup per year. Like us, they give birth to live young. Many species form maternity colonies in the summer to raise their young, while others are more solitary, roosting and raising young alone. Some species migrate south for the winter and others stay in local sheltering areas, called hibernacula, to sleep through the winter. Bats prefer caves or mines for hibernacula, though they have also been known to use buildings and bridges. Bats usually return to the same site every year if they can.
For more general information on bats in North Carolina, read the bat species profile.
Individual Bat Species Profiles
Virginia Big-eared Bat (PDF)
All 17 species of bats in North Carolina are classified as nongame with no seasons for hunting or trapping (G.S. 113-129 (11e), G.S. 113-291). Four species found in North Carolina are federally threatened or endangered and 10 are listed as Species of Greatest Conservation Need (2015 NC Wildlife Action Plan).
When inside buildings, bats may be evicted without any trapping necessary. Individuals may choose to evict a bat colony themselves or hire a licensed wildlife control agent to perform an eviction for them. Bat evictions performed for compensation must be carried out by a licensed wildlife control agent (G.S. 113-273 (l)). Because young bats are unable to fly for several weeks after birth, and can be trapped inside during an eviction, usually to starve, there is a moratorium in North Carolina on bat evictions during the pup-rearing season from May 1 through July 31.
Special permits are required for trapping or collecting bats for research or rehabilitation purposes. Find out how to apply for a regulated activities permit here.
Bats are rabies vector species in North Carolina, though most bats do not carry the virus. Learn more about bats and rabies through the NC Department of Health and Human Services and The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Learn more about bat eviction moratoriums here.
Bats are integral to healthy ecosystems worldwide. In the Tropics, bats are essential seed dispersers and pollinators, contributing to plant reproduction and forest regrowth. In northern and central America, bats are especially important pollinators of cacao (chocolate), mango, and agave (agave nectar, tequila). Here in the United States, they provide vital pest control services by consuming vast numbers of insects, including mosquitos; a nursing female bat can consume almost her entire body weight in insects in one night. Bats save the corn industry over $1 billion in free pest control every year.
Although bats are an integral part of our environment, occasionally they can become problematic when they interrupt our daily lives by entering homes, schools or other structures. Read our Coexisting with Bats (PDF) document for useful tips to avoid negative interactions with bats. Read our Managing Conflicts with Bats (PDF) document for additional information.
Bats are considered a rabies vector species in North Carolina, along with raccoons, foxes, skunks, and several other species. Though any mammal can contract rabies, there is a specific variant that particularly affects bats, just as there is a specific variant for other vector species (e.g., raccoons, skunks, and dogs). Caution should always be taken to prevent direct exposure to bats, and any exposure or potential exposure should be reported to your local health department in case medical treatment is necessary. However, only about 2% of all bats tested for rabies in North Carolina test positive for the virus.
Though bats can become sick, weak, or disoriented for a variety of reasons other than rabies, it is best never to directly handle any sick or injured bat you may find. Some wildlife rehabilitators in North Carolina are licensed to care for rabies vector species, including bats. If you find a sick or injured bat, contact a rabies species rehabilitator FIRST before taking any other action.
Sometimes pups or adult bats can fall out of the roost and onto the ground during periods of abnormally high temperatures. In these cases the bats may die from exposure and heat exhaustion. You can prevent this by installing a bat pup catcher. Learn now to make your own pup catcher here.
Many young bats die in late summer purely from lack of survival experience. In the winter, however, dead bats could indicate the presence of white-nose syndrome, a fungal disease that has caused a widespread decline in bat populations across North America. Please report dead bats in winter, or any time of year if you find 5 or more dead bats, to the NC Wildlife Helpline at email@example.com, for advice on what to do next.
Bats prefer dark, narrow spaces for roosting and raising young. While bats aren’t capable of making holes themselves, they can squeeze into preexisting holes as small as ½ inch wide. You can locate entry points by looking for bats as they leave at dusk or return at dawn, or for streaks or piles of guano below the entrance (bat guano resembles mouse droppings). While bats roosting in an attic, porch, or on the side of buildings usually do not pose an immediate health concern, they can be removed via “eviction” if desired. See the Regulations section on this page for legal considerations regarding bat removals.
Bats sometimes accidentally fly into homes through open windows or doors, or enter the living space through the walls or attic.
Problems can be prevented by locating and blocking all potential entry points where bats might enter. Learn more here.
Populations of several bat species in the United States have declined in recent years. Pesticides, persecution, and disturbance of hibernacula and maternity colonies by humans may have contributed to this decline. Importantly, an emergent fungal disease called white-nose syndrome (WNS) has killed more than 5.7 million bats across the U.S. since its discovery in New York in 2006. This disease was first confirmed in North Carolina in 2011 and continues to spread to new states each winter. As of early 2020, it has been confirmed in 34 states and 7 Canadian provinces. Whether from WNS or from other factors, surveys reveal drastic declines in North Carolina for little brown (93%), northern long-eared (93%), tricolored (83%), and Indiana bat populations (73%) over the past decade.
Read the N.C. White-nose Syndrome Surveillance Response Plan
NCWRC biologists conduct surveys each year to determine bat distribution and hibernation sites in North Carolina, track the spread of WNS, and estimate population trends for certain species. Bats are surveyed by a variety of methods (e.g., mist netting, trapping, banding, acoustic recording, roost monitoring, and radio telemetry), which creates a robust view of the status of bats in the state over time. With the help and cooperation of several partners, NCWRC biologists have surveyed and banded thousands of bats in North Carolina. The information gathered from these research efforts help NCWRC understand the dynamics of bat populations, the threats they face, and reveal ways to improve our efforts to conserving them.
Conserving bats so they can continue to provide ecological and economic benefits will take effort not just by conservation organizations like NCWRC, but by everyone in North Carolina, including you.
Bat Species Profile (PDF)
Coexisting with Bats (PDF)
Managing Conflicts with Bats (PDF)
2022 NCWRC Protocols for Bat Handling Surveys During COVID-19 Pandemic (PDF)
Bat Conservation International
N.C. White-nose Syndrome Surveillance Response Plan (PDF)
White Nose Syndrome Fact Sheet (PDF)
Why Bats are Cool Infographic (PDF)
Why Bats Need our Help Infographic
North Carolina Bat Acoustic Survey (NABat)
Wildlife Diversity Program Quarterly Reports
Protected Wildlife Species of North Carolina Listings (PDF)